A drop in the ocean?
United Airlines has confirmed a deal with the low carbon fuel maker AltAir Fuels that will see it purchase biofuel and other renewable products for future flights. Under the terms of the contract AltAir Fuels will produce the fuel from a retrofit portion of an existing refiner.
As many readers will be aware, biofuel is a substitute for traditional petroleum-based jet fuel, and it requires no modification for use with existing engine technology. United has said that it has plans to buy 15m gallons of the fuel at a rate of 5m gallons per year over a three year period: this will start in 2014. Further, United has the option to purchase more if required. Perhaps the most interesting fact is that United has revealed that it is purchasing the biofuel at a cost that equates to that of traditional fuel.
This Los Angeles facility thus becomes AltAir’s first fuel production project. Although in terms of the environment the quantities under discussion are minute, nonetheless the initiative should be welcomed by the sector.
Knife ruling overturned
It’s been some time coming but finally a decision has been made on the topic of blades on board aircraft. The TSA’s John Pistole has decided not to permit passengers to carry small knives on aircraft: this comes in the wake of much criticism from both the public and airline cabin crew.
John Pistole had earlier proposed to slacken the regulations over knife carriage, regulations that date back to the 9/11 disasters. April 25 was mooted as the date that the law would change but this announcement caused so much outcry that the TSA was obliged to reconsider its stance. This latest decision seems likely to restore the status quo.
Air Canada looking for savings
Canada’s principal carrier has announced that it will be looking to trim costs by up to 15% in the medium term. To achieve this it will seek to add capacity whilst introducing more fuel-efficient aircraft; also planned is the launch of a low cost carrier.
The airline believes that capacity for the coming year will be expanded by 9-11%, this in part occasioned by the acquisition of five B777-300ER aircraft along with seven Dreamliners. Air Canada added that its transfer of Embraer 175 aircraft to Sky Regional would assist it in reducing the overall cost per seat mile by up to 15%.
Staff representation still far from clear
The Teamsters union has been escalating its campaign to oust other unions within the industry.
Teamsters’ officials have said that they have filed a petition with a federal labor agency to try and force an election against the Transport Workers Union in the representation of mechanics at American Airlines. Moreover, the Teamsters are seeking to represent mechanics at US Airways who are currently represented by the machinists’ union. The outcome of both elections will determine which union will eventually negotiate with the newly-merged airline. It is expected that American and US Airways will seal the merger deal within the next few months.
The Transport Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said earlier that they would share the representation of the mechanics and other ground workers after the two carriers merge. However, such a deal would be unworkable if either loses an election to the Teamsters.
By law, the Teamsters need the support of at least half of the American Airlines’ mechanics to force an election.
Delta to scale down at Memphis
Delta Air Lines has said that it is planning to drop Memphis as a hub later this year. This will entail making 230 staff redundant, whilst it cuts back on flights to make the location more profitable. Delta has said, though, that some staff will be offered buy-out packages and that others will have the option of other jobs. The carrier added in a memorandum to its staff that escalating fuel costs and its reliance on uneconomical 50 seat regional jets have contributed to an essentially unprofitable situation. The job cuts, which will involve customer service staff and Delta Cargo workers, will take effect from the start of September.
According to data recently released by the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.7% fewer staff in March this year compared to figures from March 2012. This represents the seventh consecutive month that employment levels have been lower than those of a year ago.